So this is what it comes to: I have spent the last six months waiting for a phone call.
I have never been the sort to watch the telephone. Even with the tripe that passes for televisual entertainment sometimes, it’s still better than watching the phone.
Perhaps this needs explaining: it’s not that I’m so unutterably popular that nobody plays games with me, acting disinterested when they’re anything but. I’m quite sure the disinterest is real.
As it happens, I am rarely riddled with crippling self-doubt.
Plenty of people have managed to ignore me completely but in all fairness, they’re probably not right in the head.
The reason I have been watching the phone is not a woman, but a plasterer.
My house, although not old enough to justify a year inscribed on the front wall, is far from new. As such, there’s usually something around here that needs fixing. For the last (I’m not going to lie to you), it’s probably a year – the render has needed looking at. More than looking at, in fact, it’s needed fixing.
What I have been after is someone with some nouse and trowels, to tear a path through the bindweed and brambles, locate the section of plaster which has both blown and cracked, and deal with it. For those of us blessed with the gift of sight, locating the damaged render is simple; fixing it is something altogether other.
I have a mate who is a plasterer. We all need a mate who is a plasterer. The trouble is he’s very good at what he does and, as such, is impossibly busy.
We have had a building crew at the Legion, refurbishing the bathroom block, and their plastering team was in today. As I chatted to them about my front wall, they walked on their stilts and skimmed to a perfectly smooth finish. I’d never seen anything like it.
There are probably bumpier supermodels.
They gave me a number for their boss, I called, left a message and – here we are again. They’re booked up for the next eighteen months.
I’ve had render pop before. I know it’s the bindweed that does it. No sooner do you pull a clump of the stuff away from a plant, downpipe or visiting relative, it comes back double and brings some friends.
And so, this bane of middle England has grown and taken over my garden, and now managed to inveigle its way up behind the render, bulging it out towards the street light, and I wonder if such an animal exists as a plasterer with a free Saturday.
My brother, the gardener, is off until the New Year, so I have something of a task ahead of me anyway.
And this is what I plan to do.
I will find whatever rusted equivalent I have to a jungle machete and cut back the undergrowth. I will cut it down to dust. There will be not a shred of greenery left at the front of my house. I will dig out the flowerbed, remove the bulbs to somewhere safer and lay a weed-proof membrane. I will anchor the beast down with special anchoring hooks, because I’m not going through this again. I will cut down the buddleia that threatens to move in.
And then we get to the meat: I will take a hammer, and knock away the damaged render.
I will clean the wall beneath.
I will apply a slim layer of gluey gorgeousness, mix some cement and do the best I can.
And alright, it won’t be smooth as silk, it won’t be professional, but dammit it will be done.
I have already ordered apprentice plastering trowels (‘apprentice’ because I don’t need a razor sharp edge when I don’t know what I’m doing), I’ve ordered cement, a weed-proof membrane and gravel.
Oh, I forgot to mention the gravel!
After the plaster has hardened and the weeds have been burnt, I will pour what is, in the pictures at least, very pretty gravel on top of the weed-proof membrane, and that’ll be that.
I’ll get some tubs in the New Year, and plant out some flowery things.
This is a new Binney. I may not know what flowers are called, or where they should live, or how to keep them from dying, but I know my way around a gravel sack.
I’ll just make the rest of it up as I go along.